Benjamin Moore & Company CEO Denis Abrams and other top company executives celebrated a long-overdue sales improvement with a trip to Bermuda, say news reports from New York.
| Denis Abrams|
It’s what happened after the voyage that’s making waves, however: Abrams walked the plank, reportedly jettisoned as Benjamin Moore CEO by his ultimate boss—the Oracle of Omaha, billionaire investor and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett.
Benjamin Moore, the venerable paint and coatings manufacturer based in Montvale, N.J., is owned by Berkshire Hathaway.
Officially, Benjamin Moore representatives had little to say about the details of an eye-opening story in the notoriously saucy tabloid New York Post, under the headline Warren Buffett fired Benjamin Moore CEO after Bermuda cruise.
Eileen McComb, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an email reply to D+D News that the company indeed has a new CEO and president, effective June 6, with the appointment of Bob Merritt. McComb added that a formal announcement would be made in the next several days; Merritt was hired from outside the company.
|Abrams is shown at left here during 2010 ceremony celebrating the installation of a solar-power system at Benjamin Moore & Company’s Flanders, N.J., research and development campus. Also pictured are Greg Jarosinski, president of Constellation Energy (center) and former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio.|
Asked if other details in the New York Post story were accurate on the circumstances of Abrams’ reported dismissal, McComb replied, “I can share that the only accurate aspects of what you read in the NY Post are the sport scores.”
‘Rank and File’ Rankled?
The Post story said Buffett sent Abrams “on a cruise to Nowheres-ville” after the Bermuda trip, which the paper said “riled Benjamin Moore’s rank-and-file, who have weathered layoffs, slashed commissions and frozen salaries” over the past five years of “shrinking sales” that followed recession and housing-market collapse.
| Warren Buffett|
The story, billed as an “exclusive,” said Abrams “treated himself and his corporate coterie to a trip to Bermuda on the company tab” to celebrate the company’s “first quarterly sales increase since 2007.”
The newspaper attributed the information to “sources” that were not named. Berkshire Hathaway is a publicly traded company, but Benjamin Moore does not disclose financial results for its own operations.
The story went on to say that Abrams was escorted from Benjamin Moore’s headquarters building by “a half-dozen Berkshire officials.”
“[Abrams] kept asking what he’d done wrong,” according to an insider briefed on the ouster, the Post story said. “[Berkshire officials] told him to clear his stuff out while they stood and watched every move he made.”
The story noted that changes in leadership at Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary companies are rarely made public, adding that CEOs of the subsidiaries “operate mostly outside of public view.”
Abrams was Benjamin Moore vice president of operations when Berkshire Hathaway acquired the company in 2000, and was named CEO in 2007.
Berkshire Hathaway, based in Omaha, Neb., is a multinational holding company that owns a portfolio of diverse businesses, including the building-products companies Benjamin Moore, Johns Manville, Shaw Industries Inc., and Acme Building Brands. Other well-known holdings include GEICO Insurance, Helzberg Diamonds, Dairy Queen, See’s Candies, Fruit of the Loom, and Acme Boots.
Buffett has made headlines both as a result of his business successes and political views. He has generated controversy with his public call for “progressive” tax policies, disclosing his own tax returns that show he pays a lower percentage of income to taxes than middle-class wage earners. He also has gone on record with plans to donate most of his fortune to charity.